Toy Story 2 villain Zurg returns to the big screen in Pixar’s Lightyear, but without the original voice actor from the 1999 animated classic. Lightyear continues to push the envelope when it comes to its casting, despite the film being based on characters and situations that many diehard Pixar fans have come to know and love. Early concern over Buzz Lightyear being recast with Chris Evans has largely subsided as more information about the film comes to light, and inquiring eyes are now turned towards an essential character in the Space Ranger’s backstory: the evil Emporer Zurg.
In terms of choosing a voice for Buzz’s arch-nemesis, one would surely look to Toy Story 2, the film where Zurg is first introduced. The man behind that version of the character is Andrew Stanton, a very prominent figure within the Pixar company. Though more a director and animator than an actor, Stanton frequently lends his voice to many minor, side, and background roles in Pixar’s properties, with his most recognizable role being Crush the Sea Turtle from the Finding Nemo films. Stanton would logically be one of, if not the most prime candidates to play the role of Zurg in Lightyear. The film’s director, Angus MacLane, has instead decided to go in a different direction, casting Emmy award-winner James Brolin in the role.
James Brolin is the father of actor Josh Brolin, who is nowadays most well-known for his performance as Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. James, on the other hand, is probably more likely to be recognized by older generations, having starred in shows like Marcus Welby M.D., Westworld, and Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 thriller Traffic. Although this will be Brolin’s first-ever role in an animated film, he seems to bring a lot more to the table than Stanton, or any past Zurg actor. Thanks in part to his most recent voice role as the narrator of the new Netflix series Sweet Tooth, his voice’s “natural, commanding nature”, as MacLane puts it, has made him perfect for the part of Zurg.
As prolific an actor as James Brolin is, there is still an understandable skepticism from fans of the original Zurg, similarly to the initial reaction of Chris Evans being cast as Tim Allen’s iconic character Buzz Lightyear. One reason why MacLane may have opted to cast Brolin in the role rather than Stanton is that Stanton himself is not primarily an actor, and is more well known for writing and directing some of Pixar’s most important works, including Finding Nemo and WALL-E. When he does voice work for Pixar, the parts he plays are generally small and only consist of a few lines or a short scene at most. Brolin, on the other hand, is a seasoned professional with plenty of experience working on feature films, making him a much better fit for the more involved role of Zurg in Lightyear.
Lightyear could also have a canon reason behind the recast, and it revolves around the fact that the film is about the “real” Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and not his toy counterpart. The Buzz that fans know and love is a toy fashioned after a television show or movie character. Similarly in real life, high-profile actors are not always available to lend their voices to toys or games (that and hiring them to do so would be incredibly expensive). It would make sense that the voices between the two Buzzes and, in tandem, the two Zurgs, would have different people that voice them. So, while Stanton’s beloved iteration of the villainous Emperor Zurg will surely be missed in the upcoming film, it may be safe to assume that, like Evans’ Buzz, Brolin’s Zurg will not only grow on fans, but will also be welcomed by them.
source: Screen Rant